Starting wars are easy. Ending them is another story. While you know exactly how you are going to start the battle, you have not the foggiest idea how to end it. Israel wisely started out the operation in Gaza with limited goals but then as the dynamics of war took over other objectives began to present themselves. As the tunnels threat manifested in all its terrible glory, destroying these subterranean passages became objective no. 1. As Hamas fighters keep on crawling out of more and more tunnels, it has sadly become apparent that previous claims made by the IDF about full control over the tunnels were premature. Now we are told that dealing with the tunnels entails a much larger commitment. Where will it all end?
If you ask the warmongers in Netanyahu’s government, they’ll answer with a bellicose retort, something along the lines of: “we can’t stop now”, “we have to finish the job”, “stopping now is tantamount to defeat”. Denouncing all calls for a cease-fire, those already declared by their own government, and those currently in the pipeline, these voices demand a victory over Hamas. The problem is that they refrain from articulating what a victory over Hamas would look like. Are they referring to destroying the Hamas completely? Who do they picture will rule and administer almost 2 million Palestinians? Is it at all possible to completely remove Hamas from Gaza? Or maybe they just mean weakening Hamas, in which case how do we determine Hamas is “weakened” enough before stopping the operation?
These questions remain unanswered because there is no real answer to them but also because there is an underlying truth that Israelis have made every effort to ignore which is that there is no such thing as clear-cut victories any more. The Americans paid a heavy price to learn this lesson in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military power has its limits, and it cannot overcome the misery and festering hatred rooted at the very core of the Palestinian people. No matter how many 1-ton bombs we drop on Gaza, and no matter who we fight – be it Hamas or any other extremist entity that rules in its stead – force alone will not bring peace and quiet to this land. Without solving the suffocation of Gaza, we ourselves will not be able to breath properly with our two lungs.
This is a simple truth. We Israelis have been aware of it for decades but have refused to understand. We have repeatedly surrendered to the messianic forces dragging the region into flames. We turned to apathy to rid ourselves of the constant pain and disappointment. For the sake of the idea that created this country, an idea that at its very base is innocent and good but unintentionally brought about a whole lot of evil, we have to fight for our lives and for our families. Israel was born by the sword, has lived for 66 years by the sword, but cannot continue to do so indefinitely. The cost to our society is too much to bear. Already we witness how quickly our society gears up for war, on the one hand demonstrating unique largess but on the other suppressing voices of those who dare to think differently. Can the Israeli society withstand the tide of incitement and violence now washing through the country? Can our democracy be protected against those so blatantly attacking it? I’m not sure.
At times it feels as if there are two wars being fought now. One against Hamas, and one within ourselves. Both wars feed upon each other, creating a terrible codependency that protracts the tensions between the Israeli and Palestinian societies and within the Israeli society itself. To find a way out of this dark tunnel, a new partnership must be created between all those who understand that the border today is not between Jews and Arabs but between those wishing to live in peace and those who are psychologically and ideologically fed by the continuation of violence. I believe there are enough people in Israel, on the right and on the left, who can come together in an alliance that will ensure our lives are not defined by extremism. If we fail to do so, we will continue to turn that millstone grinding our lives and hopes blindfolded, forever apathetic and dumb.